Furry Travelers

Traveling with pets AKA the Furry Travelers can be a tricky endeavor but we would not have it any other way. We have two Siamese cats (Jack and Juno) and one amazing mini Australian Shepard Kuma. They travel surprising well together in such a small space and love exploring as much as we do!

Kuma on RV Dashboard
Kuma on RV Dashboard

We decided to purchase a motor home instead of a trailer for our travels. When driving down the road, the motor home is self contained for heat and air conditioning.  As long as you are comfortable, you know your critters will be too.  However if you decide to have a travel trailer or a 5th wheel there are a couple of things to consider. Will the pets be in the truck with you? Will there be room for them in the truck? Just something to keep in mind if you are in the process of shopping for an RV.

Jack on RV table
Jack on RV table

We keep some things in mind as we choose our camping space.  In hot sunny locations, we seek out shaded spaces.  We have an indoor/outdoor thermometer to keep track of the temperature / comfort level in the RV.  This may be obvious, but the RV is still a vehicle it can get really hot in there like a car in the sun. We always take measures to make sure the air conditioner  and heater (depending on the time of year) are set to kick on at appropriate temperatures. If possible while traveling, we take the dog with us if we go out to dinner.  A lot of places do allow pets outside… so we find a location with an outdoor patio that allows pets. We call first to see if this is allowed. We pick a table away from other people so no one is disturbed. We want to make sure the next person that comes in is allowed with their pet based out our behavior!

KUMA traveling
KUMA traveling

Some common courtesy is needed when traveling with pets. I can not say this loud enough…PICK UP AFTER YOUR PET! We carry bags attached to Kuma’s leash.  We are never without a bag and we carry water as well.  When the dog is outside of your RV, a leash is needed. We have a long one that barely feels like a leash but if needed it’s easy to grab. If another animal is coming toward us, (unleashed) I can grab it and take care of the situation. Kuma is great…he usually will just stand behind me. But not all dogs will react the same and you never know how someone else’s pet will respond. We pay close attention to make sure no one is eating anything unusual to make them sick. Also a good tip make sure to take along a copy of any paperwork you have from your veterinarian. We keep a folder with copies of vaccination records…just in case. As we embark on our upcoming trip, I will update with more information on traveling with pets!

We love traveling with our little furry travelers and would not have it any other way!

-Mara

Who Grows a garden in the Desert?

As long as you are not living under a rock, you may have heard that the west is under a severe drought.  Well, it seems here in New Mexico we are the opposite!  So far we are about 2 inches above normal and still going since this is our Monsoon season.  Not knowing what would grow here (other than the famous New Mexico Chile Pepper) we set up three four foot raised bed garden structures. Here is what a little drip irrigation and a lot of rain can do in the Desert:

Roma Tomato
Roma Tomato
Blue Corn
Blue Corn
Big Jim New Mexico Green Chiles
Big Jim New Mexico Green Chiles
Bell Pepper
Bell Pepper

We have everything from blue corn, bell peppers, roma tomatoes, onions, chile peppers and the overtaking lemon cumbers. Oh yeah and some herbs too!

We have really sandy soil and by sandy I mean sand like at the beach with some ancient artifacts mixed in. So we used the square foot gardening soil mix created by Mel Bartholomew (known as Mel’s Mix) contains 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite, measured by volume. soil mix

That Lemon Cucumber has taken over!! What a crazy harvest from our tiny garden.

Here is a neat link about the New Mexico Chile association http://www.nmchileassociation.com/

I hope that you have enjoyed this backyard interlude before we travel!

-Mara

Smart Organization – tow accessories

We are getting ready for our longest RV road trip yet and could not be more excited! Here is the plan driving from Albuquerque to the Seattle area and plan for anywhere from a month and a half to two months on the road.  More on the actual trip later.

If you recall, our new tow car is a smart car.  We wanted to keep our tow accessories in a safe place where we would not lose parts as we travel.  So the cardboard box they came in was not ideal.  (As usual, Juno the cat is trying to claim the box as his own!) Anyway, the smart car has a little trunk area where there is an open compartment in the tailgate.

Closed trunk space Smart Car
Closed trunk space Smart Car

After much experimentation with trying to create an expanding foam custom insert for this area, we decided to search for other options than the expanding foam.  Somehow i felt  myself reciting the three little pigs…some foam was too low, some was too high, but what we found was just right! Ok, Corny right?

Trunk supplies Kaizan Foam
Trunk supplies Kaizan Foam

Kaizen foam is a black foam that peels apart in layers. I highly recommend getting the accessories like the long tipped pattern marker and the long knife with a great handle.  They are not expensive and will make your life a lot easier in the process. We were able to order the foam and two accessories on Amazon.com. FOAM You really do have to love Amazon!

Tools and Acccessory box
Tools and accessory box

Here is the final result!

Smart car tow accessories foam
Smart car tow accessories foam
Smart car organization
Smart car organization

The foam keeps the heavy tow accessories in place as you open and close the trunk.  The best part, in my opinion, is that since there is a visual  hole for each accessory it would be difficult to leave something behind!

Now to figure out if we want a thousand trails membership….that is another post!

– Mara

Apple for Sarah Winchester?

Winchester Mansion San Jose, CA
Winchester Mansion San Jose, CA

Driving around silicon valley you can see the sites Apple, Ebay, and Google. (which I encourage you to see) However, here are some interesting finds that will make your mouth water and feed your need for a little bit of the modern and a little bit of history.

So, first the history (because I can’t stay away from weird history). Sarah Winchester and her very odd house are smack dab in modern day San Jose, CA. San Jose is third largest city in California and is the self proclaimed “capital of silicon valley”. Back to Sarah.  According to some sources, Sarah Winchester was haunted by spirits.  The spirits that haunted her were from the lives lost by the Winchester Riffles made by the family. As a result, to squash the spirits Sarah Winchester was instructed to move west and build a great house for them. As the story goes as long as construction of the house never ceased, Mrs. Winchester could rest easy that her life was not in danger. So build she did.  Construction did not cease until she did.  There are stairways that go no where. Rooms left unfinished.  A front door that was only used by Sarah, and the 2 carpenters who installed it. The story goes that upon a visit to the mansion, President Roosevelt was even instructed to go around back “like everyone else”.  It goes on and on. It is weird and amazing at the same time.  The gardens are eye candy!  It is pricey to get in but worth every penny!  Winchester mystery house

My next stop on the tour today is almost right across the street and certainly walking distance. This is our taste of modern. There is an open air shopping district called Santana Row. If you like to shop, this is the place in the area without going to San Francisco. So I am taking you here because of Tesla. The high end electric car you see driving all over silicon valley. Unlike other car dealers they have a dealership in the mall. You can also see them charging in the parking garage behind the store.

Tesla - Santana Row San Jose CA
Tesla – Santana Row San Jose CA

If you love good pizza (since we are originally from Chicago this is a must) and I know you do, head over to downtown San Jose to the San Pedro Square market. The pizza is created in a handmade brick oven imported by the owner from Italy! Super Yummy and super size beer too! Friday and Saturday nights during the summer season you can sit outside in the courtyard and listen to some live music and enjoy the beautiful California weather! San Pedro Square Market and Pizza

San Pedro Square San Jose, CA
San Pedro Square San Jose, CA

Let’s go over the RV camping in the area. You do have to drive a little while (as you do in most of California). However, there are a few campgrounds from where you can access a train station, park, hop a train, avoid a ton of traffic, and save some time.  The trains are very good in the area and can take you all the way into San Francisco! If you are thousand trails members, there are two to choose from. Morgan Hill which is south of San Jose (train access to the downtown area and shopping) and encore resort closer to Santa Cruz. If not thousand trails members, there is a really nice park called Coyote Valley RV resort south San Jose area. The Morgan Hill thousand trails is one of the more organic parks we have stayed in. And by organic, I mean mother nature is trying to take it back. A lot of the sites were broken had electric and water only with a dump to vacate your tanks within the park. We found it to be quite dusty and in great need of upgrading. It was not the same standards we have seen in other thousand trails parks. However, it did not prevent us from staying there and would still recommend using the park. Just an FYI on our experience there.

Part of the gritty side…nothing is cheap in this area. Make sure you have a healthy budget. While you can find some interesting things for free like the beach in Santa Cruz you still will need to pay for parking. Camping prices are still hefty and so is eating out. I would be interested to see how the drought is effecting the beauty of this area!

Enjoy and make sure you get into San Francisco!

-Mara

It’s a tall world after all

Redwoods Russian River area Northern CA
Redwoods Russian River area Northern CA

Where else can you have the shade of a massive redwood forest? or kayak down the river to the sea? or taste some of the best champagne this country has to offer?

My little secret place, that’s where…the Russian river area of northern California.  It’s about 95 miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma wine country. It’s history is based on trading and mining. However, in the 1920’s and 30’s the train ran here from San Francisco. Then, tourism flourished creating some magnificent authentic wooden cabins.  The valley, especially Guerneville and Duncan Mills, is a step back in time. 30’s style cabins and lodging brings the area back to it’s original hay-day.

We spent our anniversary weekend at this little cabin in the woods right on Austin Creek. It was about 10 degrees cooler and extremely quiet under the shade of those redwood trees. The coastal redwoods have a way of enveloping your soul like a big hug and everything just slows down. We found our rental here vrbo.

Cabin Russian River California
Cabin Russian River California
Austin Creek California
Austin Creek California

In the mood for wine, champagne, or maybe even a little brandy? Korbel is just three minutes from Guerneville or even on the way depending on how you come into town. The Rouge is our personal favorite!  Side note, our supply of Rouge is now depleted and we may need to take a trip back. You can order online, but what fun is that?  Make sure you stop and enjoy the complimentary tours. The grounds are beautiful and you get to taste for free!! How can you beat that? And don’t forget about the garden tour. The grounds are beautifully groomed and you can take a tour of them around the original home of the Korbel brothers.

Korbel Winery California
Korbel Winery California
Korbel
Korbel

This next part takes some planning, and willpower to get out of bed, but here it is.  You will need to get up early and arrive well before 7:30 am for the best breakfast croissants I have ever put in my mouth! They are buttery with turkey and pesto and warm and oh so tasty! Really great coffee too!

http://goldcoastcoffeeandbakery.com/

Duncan Mills, CA is a tiny little town with a population of just 85. Cute antique shops and a couple of great places to eat on your way to the ocean! duncan mills

– Mara

Elephants on the Beach?

I’m back!  Sorry for the delay last week…had surgery and needed some recovery time.

Driving Highway 1 along the California coast is absolutely breathtaking. We made the seven hour drive from Los Angeles up to Santa Cruz. It was late January and we were about seven miles north of San Simeon, CA.  We noticed a place to pull over and there were a ton of people gathering looking out at the beach. I am usually not one for crowds and would normally keep on driving. But, something struck me that day and said we needed to stop and take a look.  Here’s what we saw:

Elephant Seals California
Elephant Seals California

My mouth dropped open! Elephant Seals were everywhere!! Now about 17,000 seals migrate to and from this location every year. Viewing is open to the public free of charge from the Elephant Seal Boardwalk. It is amazing and a little shocking to see a such group of creatures thriving in a natural habitat.  I noticed how the elephants used their strength to pull their blubbery bodies onto the beach from the sea. Their trail in the sand reminded me of a map with all of the paths crossing from the sea. Absolutely marvelous!

Check out the webcam elephant seal cam

Beach Near Hearst Castle California
Beach Near Hearst Castle California

For more information please check out the website for the elephant seals http://www.elephantseal.org/

Something to take under consideration when planing your drive down Hwy 1, it would be quite a difficult drive in a motor home or pulling a fifth wheel quite a few stretches of the road. It would be a good idea to plan accordingly.  Also, there are not many gas stations along the route. The stations that are open really gouge on price! Definitely some planning is needed.

-Mara